Democrat President Joe Biden’s administration is pushing forward with plans to “dim the Sun” in an effort to fight “climate change.”
The plan is being coordinated by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.
The five-year research plan will study ways of modifying the amount of sunlight that reaches the Earth in order to temporarily temper the effects of “global warming.”
Among the methods of sunlight-reflection technology being considered are stratospheric aerosol injection, marine cloud brightening, and cirrus cloud thinning.
Stratospheric aerosol injection involves spraying an aerosol like sulfur dioxide into the stratosphere.
However, this controversial method has the potential to affect the entire world.
While arguments about moral hazard have handicapped research efforts, the idea is getting more urgent attention as Democrats continue to raise alarm about the so-called “climate crisis.”
According to the White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy, the research plan will assess climate interventions, including spraying aerosols into the stratosphere to reflect sunlight back into space, and should include goals for research, what’s necessary to analyze the atmosphere, and what impact these kinds of climate interventions may have on Earth.
Congress directed the research plan be produced in its spending plan for 2022, which Biden signed in March.
Some of the techniques, such as spraying sulfur dioxide into the atmosphere, are known to have harmful effects on the environment and human health.
But scientists and climate leaders who are concerned that humanity will overshoot its emissions targets say research is important to figure out how best to balance these risks against a possibly catastrophic rise in the Earth’s temperature.
According to a report by CNBC, taxpayers will be investing heavily in the plans.
The current estimate is that it would cost $10 billion per year to run a program that cools the Earth by 1 degree Celsius, said Edward A. Parson, a professor of environmental law at UCLA’s law school.
Yet, there’s also a precedent in factories that burn fossil fuels, especially coal.
Coal has some sulfur that oxidizes when burned, creating sulfur dioxide.
That sulfur dioxide goes through other chemical reactions and eventually falls to the earth as sulfuric acid in rain.
But during the time that the sulfur pollution sits in the air, it does serve as a kind of insulation from the heat of the sun.
Ironically, as the world reduces coal burning to curb the carbon dioxide emissions that supposedly cause “global warming,” we’ll also be eliminating the sulfur dioxide emissions that mask some of that warming.
“Sulfur pollution that’s coming out of smokestacks right now is masking between a third and a half of the heating signal from the greenhouse gases humans have already emitted into the atmosphere,” Parson said.
Nevertheless, there are significant and well-known risks to some of these techniques — sulfur dioxide aerosol injection, in particular.
First, spraying sulfur into the atmosphere will “mess with the ozone chemistry in a way that might delay the recovery of the ozone layer,” Parson told CNBC.
Also, sulfates injected into the atmosphere eventually come down as acid rain, which affects soil, water reservoirs, and local ecosystems.
Third, the sulfur in the atmosphere forms very fine particulates that can cause respiratory illness.
The question, then, is whether these known effects are more or less harmful than the warming they would offset.